Music and movies go hand in hand. Rightly so, ‘Chakkarapanthal’, a weekly show on Mathrubhumi News, is a musical journey through the history of Indian cinema. While the focus is on Malayalam film music, Hindi and Tamil music are also covered. The programme, which weaves a rich audio-visual experience, is the brainchild of Ravi Menon, music research head of Mathrubhumi group. Ravi talks about conceptualising and producing ‘Chakkarapanthal’ . Excerpts:

The concept

It is a musical travelogue that covers and celebrates 100 years of the Indian film industry. We are not presenting the history in a chronological order. Singers, composers, lyricists, cinematographers, actors, recordists, instrumentalists and many others who have worked behind a song or a bunch of songs, go down memory lane and share interesting titbits, information and experiences with the viewers. When we cover songs in Tamil and Hindi, we air feedback from experts such as singers and composers in Malayalam.

Research work

Even while working as a sports journalist with many dailies, I have been writing about music, especially film music. [He has been writing a column on music in Mathrubhumi weekly for the last 10 years and has brought out 10 books related to music and musicians]. Those articles have served as the research material for the show. Of course, I have come across new information while working on ‘Chakkarapanthal’.

Memorable episodes

There have been many. Yesteryear actor Vidhubala recalled shooting the slow motion song sequence in Ormakal Marikkumo. She and Kamal Haasan actually moved and danced slowly since the technique hadn’t yet been introduced in Malayalam cinema. They all had a blast acting it out! M. Jayachandran, meanwhile, talks about how he made the late Gireesh Puthenchery give the song ‘Junile nilamazhayil’ to him though it was originally written for Vidyasagar. The lyricist, apparently, gave it to Jayachandran on the condition that he tuned it better than Vidyasagar.

In an upcoming episode, I.V. Sasi, talks about the songs in Avalude Raavukal. He admits that A.T. Ummer drew flak for copying the tunes for the movie for no fault of his. In fact, Sasi himself sat in the console, put the track, made S. Janaki sing both the songs – ‘Ragendu Kiranangal’ and ‘Unniyaarariro’, adding a flute portion to the former. They are from the Hindi movies Swami and Jheel Ke Us Paar, respectively.

Meeting composer K.J. Joy who scored the immortal song ‘Maranjirunnalum’ was quite emotional. He had had a stroke, one of his legs had been amputated, and he had more or less been forgotten by the industry.

V. Dakshinamurthy’s last interview was for our show. We have also shot a memorable episode with A. Vincent. Upcoming episodes feature S.P. Balasubramaniam, P. Susheela, S. Janaki, Mohan Sithara, Poovachal Khader, and P. Jayachandran in addition to musicians and composers from Hindi.

On television

My debut on television was the show ‘Aayiram Gaanangal Than Aananda Lahari’ for Doordarshan. It was directed by M.S. Naseem and scripted by me. I’ve also anchored two shows – ‘Anjali’ for Amrita TV and ‘Ragaanjali’ for Indiavision. When ‘Chakkarapanthal’ was launched, P. Ananthapadmanabhan was the producer and I focussed on research aspect. After he left, I took over.

The experience

It has been rewarding, especially because we are getting good feedback from the audience. Some of them suggest the names of artistes they want to see and request us to telecast rare footage. But the fact is that there is no footage available for many of our evergreen songs, such as ‘Thiruvonapularithan…’ (Thiruvonam), ‘Parijatham thirumizhi…’ and ‘Poovum Prasadavum…’ (from Thookukal Katha Parayunnu) and ‘Alliyambal kadavil…’ (Rosy).

‘Chakkarapanthal’ is aired on Saturdays at 8 p.m.